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Infuse repairing process into re- branding project — AAAN AGM

By Princewill Ekwujuru
At the 36th AGM of the Association of Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria  (AAAN) in  Enugu  State, titled Re-branding, Re-positioning or Re-Pairing,  Prof. Ike Ndolo, Dean, Faculty of Management Sciences, Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) spoke on the hope, convergence and the need to reposition Nigeria. Below is the text of his speech delivered undiluted, Princewill Ekwujuru. was there. Excerpt

The” Re-branding Nigeria” project which began on 9th February, 2009 has generated a lot of discourseamong Nigerians, home and in the Diaspora. Some argue that “whatever neo-liberal marketers maysay, a nation is not a commodity, project or an enterprise. Its contents are not only economic; there arepolitical, socio-cultural and spiritual dimensions to the history of how a nation has come to be. It, would, therefore be wrong to apply the concept employed in marketing commodities or service to a country. So it’s offensive to decent socio-cultural sensibilities to call Nigeria a brand that should be re-branded or whatever” (Kayode Komolafe, 2009).

A few argue that “Nigeria does not need any re-branding because it is already a strong brand… a natural leader in Africa… a role model, a reference point for African Countries and the black race. But unfortunately, the reverse is the case now.”

Nigeria, however, has been a brand since the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates in 1914. A     one time strong brand, whose current weak disposition needs Re-branding, Re-positioning or Repairing.            BRANDING/RE-BRANDING

Branding was originally associated with a name, term, sign, symbol or design or a combination of them intended to identify goods or services (Kotler, 1991)
However, Chernatory and McDonald (1992) believe that a brand is “an identifiable product, service, person or place, augmented in such a way that the buyer or user perceives relevant unique added values!which match their needs most closely.”

According to Arnold (1992), “brands are now perceived as personalities- recognised and understood on an emotional level, in a way that most of their founders would find astonishing”. He went further to say that “brands are larger than products, large enough to be repeatedly updated and altered in almost any aspect, to maintain their relevance to the market. As long as the brand is kept up-to-date with evolving standards and values, there is no reason why it should not live forever.”

In recent times,  nations are beginning to use branding and other marketing strategies to make themselves more attractive to potential investors and tourists. The “Re-branding Nigeria” project follows in the footsteps of the “I love New York” campaign which was a boost to tourism, employment  and wealth creation for the city. It also follows, according to Nworah (2006), “in the footsteps of some other African Countries which had launched similar image campaigns such as Uganda and their “Gifted by Nature” campaign; South African “Image Programme” and Malawi’s “Heart of Africa” project.
Re-branding is operationally defined by Vice President Goodluck Jonathan as “a genuine attempt to reorientate Nigerians towards believing in themselves once again”.

Professor Dora Akunyili, Minister of Information and Communications, goes further to state that “we need to re-brand Nigeria, so that we, as Nigerians, will appreciate ourselves and our country which will put us in a position to present ourselves positively to the outside world…this re-branding is about our collective interest, our image as a country, as a people in the present and the future. It is to make Nigeria a good product that can sell.”

The “Re-branding Nigeria” project is the latest in the series of previous efforts to make Nigeria a haven of greatness: Ethical Revolution, War Against Indiscipline (WAI), War Against Indiscipline and Corruption (WAIC), MAMSER and Nigeria Image Project later renamed Heart of Africa project. The Minister promised to infuse the positive aspects of these past efforts into the current Re-branding Nigeria project.RE-POSITIONING.

Every brand, no matter how large the marketing budget, is homeless until it is invited into someone’s life, provided there is a place somewhere in there for the brand. In there, the brand becomes a helpmate that answers some practical or emotional needs and desires that, once fulfilled, may form the basis for along-term relationship with the customer.

How a brand is recognized in the market place is based largely on its personality but what it means insomeone’s life is derived from its positioning.
Howard Schutz, co-founder of America’s Star-buck’s Coffeehouse Chain sees “marketing …as the ability to deliver over and over, a strong level of trust and confidence that the customer comes to expect…customers must recognize that you stand for something”. What your brand stands for is generally reflected best in its positioning.

Made popular by Jake Trout and Al Ries (1972) “positioning is the way in which a customer thinks of a brand relative to its competition”. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is, you position the product in the mind of the prospect”.
What makes the positioning concept so irresistible is its innovative angle of approach. Positioning focuses both on what the marketer (MOI) thinks is important, and what the consumer (Nigerians) perceive is important.

The health of a brand identity is a direct function of its perceived relevance in its customer’s realities.
In a healthy franchise, the brand-to-customer relationship is symbiotic, a continuous circle of relevance bonding the seller and the brand to the buyer (Upshaw, 1995). A brand team does its homework and consistently delivers relevant benefits to its brand’s customers. That in turn, creates a trust in the brand, hopefully leading to an ongoing relationship between buyer and the brand. As the relationship continues, the marketing team understands more about the buyer’s needs, enabling them to deliver more relevant benefits.

In an unhealthy franchise, there is a disconnect between the brand and the customer resulting in some kind of a systemic atrophy. Re-positioning is trying to fix that atrophy.

According to Webster Encyclopaedia Dictionary, repairing is “to restore to a sound or good state after decay,
injury, dilapidation, or partial destruction…to make amends for, as for an injury by anequivalent…restoration to a sound or good state”.
The Oxford Thesaurus, sees repairing is designed to “mend, patch up, renew, put or set right, restore, fix up, service, put back, into working order, vamp, revamp, adjust”.

This concept of Repairing presupposes that the Nigeria nation has a lot of problems that need solving.
This process has also been called “Transformation or Fixing.”

It is important to appreciate the reality of the Nigerian situation in the face of the Re-branding, Repositioning or Repairing process.
1.  Nigeria is a large and diverse nation:
•   140-150 million people.

•   Over 250 ethnic groups that are atimes suspicious and hostile to each other.
•   Over 250 mutually unintelligible languages made more complex by 1000 dialects.

•  2 major antagonistic religions and a third indigenous one, that sometimes compliments the other two.
•   60 percent of Nigerians are rural dwellers, and illiterate by western standards.
2.   28 years of military dictatorship completely destroyed the social, health, educational, political, infrastructural and economic fabric of the nation. Consequently:

•  Nigeria became one of the poorest nations in the world, populated by many very helplessly and hopelessly poor, hungry and unemployed citizens living on less than N150 per day.

•  The psyche of Nigerians became militarized, lending themselves only to violent solutions and approaches to life.
3.  Though, the President Yar’dua government has brought about an atmosphere of national rebirth and renaissance, Nigeria today is at the crossroads of decadence and democracy. Almost ten years of democracy have left people wondering if any blow has been dealt to decadence. Nigerians are wondering and asking WHY?
•     Why is Nigeria one of most corrupt nations in the world where gratifications, kickbacks, settlements, Ghana-must-go, bribery and embezzlement have been shamelessly and blatantly massified and classified as culture?

•     Why is there no security of lives and property ?- leaving Nigerians in their homes and on the roads at the mercy of barefaced and vicious cultists, assassins, robbers and kidnappers armed with very sophisticated weapons?

•      Why is there a lack of basis amenities? – no good roads, no potable water, no
electricity, no functional hospitals and an under-funded, epileptic educational system.
•     Why is there a proliferation of religious exuberance and expression, leaving us with too much religion but no God, while the nation seems to exist in a state of suspended moral animation?

•     Why does our electoral system continuously disenfranchise us- making it almost impossible for visionary, committed, charismatic and consistent leaders to emerge at the various levels of government?

•     Why are we, as Nigerians, seen as drug pushers and fraudsters and consequently strip-searched, humiliated and discriminated against at most international airports around the globe.
•     Why is there no freedom of Information Act that will catalyze transparency, accountability and free information flow?

•     Why has our God given mineral resource, oil, become an oxymoron- a cursed blessing
for us.
Following from the above realities of the Nigerian situation and an x-ray of the three developmental concepts, I would make bold to advocate a convergence of the Re-branding and the Repairing processes, with Repairing infused into the Re-branding Nigeria project.

A convergence of the Re-branding Nigeria and Repairing Nigeria processes will accommodate trying to repair or fix our problems while the Re-branding of our battered image is in progress. Professor Akunyili advocates as much when she says that, “Nigeria cannot wait until it solves all her problems before it can stand to give serious thought to Re-branding its battered image. This is because our development is tied to our image.”

Professor Akunyili further states that, “this project will be home grown. It is conceived to be people cantered branding with an internalized approach. The epicentre of this campaign is the Nigeria people. It is intended to motivate and re-inspire the Nigerian people and at the same time re-orient them towards celebrating the things that make us a great country.”It is pertinent to recall the words of Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo who said that, “the remaking of Nigeria is a task that calls for probity, dedication to rigorous planning, Spartan self discipline and exceeding industry. In order words, remaking of Nigeria is feasible only if we, first and foremost, remake and recreate ourselves… that is to say those who offer to lead this country aright must strive constantly to lead themselves out of the unruly prompting of the instincts and liberate themselves from the ‘tyranny of the flesh’ in all its octopoid dimensions.

Nigeria is naturally good and great. It only remains for us, her sons and daughters to strive, for all we are worth, to match her goodness and greatness, for the welfare and happiness of every one of us”.Pastor Tunde Bakare – of Latter Rain Assembly says that “only a cleansing rain from Heaven can wipe away the terrible image we and our Leaders have painted boldly upon the canvass of our nation”. Re-branding Nigeria project is the “cleansing rain” that must fall on every roof and every Nigerian- the Executive, the Legislature, the Judiciary and the generality of the citizenry. This “Re-branding Nigeria” ‘cleansing rain’ must fall on the:

In related development, Sir. Steve Omojafor also  faulted the re_branding exercise when he called on Federal Government focus on reorientating the country’s leadership, making them responsive to the needs of the citizens.

Omojafor, Group Chairman, STB_McCann Limited, in his presentation at the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria’s (AAAN) 36th Annual General Meeting, in Enugu State, made available to Vanguard, disclosed that if the Akunyili concentrates on addressing the issue of bad leadership in the country, majority of the country’s problem would be solved as other things would naturally fall into place.

He said, “And now to the poser: Who needs to be ‘Rebranded’. ‘Repositioned’ or ‘Repaired’ _ Is it the country, its leadership or the followership? But first, let us identify some contending target groups: At the peak, is a hungry and completely dehumanized followership; then a traumatized Nigerian Youth population with no sense of direction or hope for the future; followed by a productive sector that must provide electricity, roads, water and security to remain in business; and finally, a Nigerian populace whose dreams and expectations in life, have been so shamelessly dashed.

“Honestly should we not get more serious? The Honourable Minister might have succeeded in glamourising the word ‘Rebrandinq,’  but how do you re_brand a virtually dead populace or nation? ‘Repositioning?’ From what point to where? The truth, if it must be well told, is that it is the country’s leadership that needs to be ‘Repaired’ from its current state of absolute Dilapidation.

“I find the on_going re_branding noise rather superfluous and without any discernible direction. Is the fire burning out, even before it started? Questions again are: Are we worried about the way Nigerians perceive their country or the way outsiders see us? If it’s the former, how can re_branding in its current form make me change my opinion of my country _ when I am dying of hunger, jobless, dejected, no electricity to iron my clothes, no clean water to drink or cook my meal and continue to sleep with one eye open, awaiting the arrival of the next set of armed robbers? It just doesn’t add up.

And if the new branding is meant to change outsiders’ opinion about Nigeria, what is Madam Minister’s grouse against the Heart of Africa launched about two years ago? Or rather, why is she so bent on not exposing her own campaign to those same foreigners whom she is attempting to attract to invest in a new and improved Nigeria.

I think she needs to be more decided. Militancy in the Niger Delta has for instance, continued to give Nigeria such a bad image out there. I am yet to be educated how her current re_branding exercise can restore the much_needed sanity to the area and get the boys off the trenches.

“That’s why one rather strongly believes, that the evolution of a leadership with vision, clear_cut programmes, policies and strategies that will give the country a new lease of life is the starting point. Do Nigerians for instance, believe in the current leadership? Not when it’s reported that Senators take home close to N12 million monthly while members of the House of Representatives go home with close to N10 million.

“Or when N1.3 trillion of our N3.1 trillion National budget (about thirty percent) is spent on salaries and allowances of politicians, while poor Nigerians are daily dying of hunger.

How then can we have money to pay striking lecturers, provide electricity, repair our roads or fix the hospitals? Did I hear them say, they are cutting salaries & allowances? Your guess is as good as mine!“If the President can fix the economy, provide jobs for the teeming youths, supply electricity, fix the roads, ensure security of life and property, bring the schools to international standards, fix the hospitals to provide world_class healthcare, that is the real re_branding we need. The truth is that mere sloganeering will never do the job. Focus needs to shift heavily to concrete government actions and policies to save Nigerians from the throes of untimely death. Anything to the contrary, is putting the cart before the horse.”


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